NLCC celebrates Finley, Wright exhbits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Adams County native son Richard Wright continues to have a presence in the area, 50 years after his death.

In conjunction with the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Museum opened its doors to the Richard Wright Hall, which houses the Finley Collection of West African Art.

NAPAC Director Darrell White said while the hall has been open since June, they chose to market it as a grand opening to excite people coming from out of town, so they would come view the Richard Wright Hall, which is now a literary landmark.

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“Wright visited West Africa on a political trip as the countries were coming out of colonization,” he said. “He also looked at art, and these are the types of pieces that he may have looked upon.”

The hall was absolutely wonderful, Richard Wright Scholar Jerry Ward said. He said he looked forward to helping with its further development.

“There is much more to explain about how he and his family are important to the area,” Ward said. “But I think this is a bright new beginning for the 21st century in Natchez — we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the black presence in Natchez.

“That story has to be told.”

The Richard Wright Hall and the Finley Collection are going to have an impact on the community, NAPAC Board of Trustees Chairman Rev. LeRoy White said.

“Young people can get the real story about Africa and its artifacts,” he said. “They believe what they see on TV, but this is the actual thing.”

Kye Handy, a sophomore at Tougaloo College, said she enjoyed her viewing of the approximately 300-piece collection.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Handy said. “And seeing how much detail they put in it. It is really impressive.”

As an art student, Tougaloo freshman Bradley Hammond said he could appreciate a look at this culture.

“I think it is very powerful that such a culture, so long ago, was able to create such works of art,” Hammond said.

The way the West Africans used metal and wood alike, shows how sophisticated their art venues were, Zachary resident Don Fonte said.

“I am a collector myself of African masks,” he said. “I can appreciate their concern in detailing the human form above the shoulders.”

Fonte said it was the largest collection of its type that he had ever seen.

The whole NAPAC Museum was refreshing, said Mississippi State University Senior Ryan Bankston.

“Most museums are not as authentic as this,” he said. “Local African-Americans have been dedicated to collecting these pieces for Natchez and for the future.”